I mean this in the same tone as Michael Pollan wrote, “Eat food.” Like our modern food system burdened with factory farming, GMOs, organic labels, disappearing honey bees our trip to the market is fraught with complexities. So is the book publishing industry.
Which is why Pollan’s reminder to draw back to the simplest elements make sense. He backs up his words with an entire book, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. And you could write a book about writing books!
No matter what is going on in the industry, you still need to visit the page regularly and not get swept up into the politics of publishing. We all have our reasons to be here, and mostly it’s about the writing. I recommend author, C. Hope Clark’s weekly newsletter Funds For Writers for her grounded advice, insights and funding and publishing links. She gives us out thought for the day.
Thought for Days 21, 22 & 23:
“Publishing is in a constant state of flux, always stirred up worse by strong personalities flexing, ranting, projecting the end of the world. And unless you choose to spend eight hours a day trying to understand all sides, you won’t ever grasp the details. So don’t try.” ~C. Hope Clark
Focus on writing the best book you can. Learn what you need to know about the industry without getting caught up in taking sides. But for now, keep writing. Write books. Craft words. Shape stories.
Word Count: 6,018
Excerpt From Rock Creek:
Mary knew that both Cob and Leroy wanted their parents to go west. “Cob says, I am to convince you to go, but I know…”
Horse hooves pounded down the bridle path outside along with youthful whooping and a loud, Whoa!”
“Busy home, today, Celia.” James stood up to see who the new arrivals were.
Celia said, “I think it’s just the boys.” Ten years ago, a mountain family by the name of Hughes had succumbed to illness, all except for a daughter and a son who was the best friend of Cob’s young cousin Jamie Woods. Celia and James raised Billy and Emily Hughes. The girl was now married to one of Mary’s Greene cousins over in Sugar Cove. Billy was nearly 18 and he and Jamie had finished at the Episcopal Academy in Greensboro this past December and decided not to return in favor of going out west with Leroy.
Both lanky youths burst through the cabin door. “We got another wrangler!” Billy Hughes had black hair like Mary’s with greenish-gold eyes and thick black lashes that made him almost as pretty as a lass. Almost. His fresh attempt at a shadowy beard ruined the image.
Jamie walked in grinning and looking like a blond McCanles with gray eyes. His mother Louisa was Celia’s sister and Jamie’s father was a blond Watauga man who practiced law. At one time James McCanles had been local magistrate. It was said that he and Woods were cousins and went to Academy together where they met the Alexander sisters. Now they were all a part of this mountain community. A powder keg for the young men wanting adventure so bad that even war sounded like an exciting prospect. Better that these two go west.
Behind them walked in Jim Hartley who was slightly shorter though he stood straight without a slouch. He was dressed in a light wool coat of tobacco brown. His reddish beard matched the thinning hair on his head. Having just removed his hat, he smoothed back the wisps. His face was yet youthful and he kept his beard and mustache neatly trimmed. The Hartleys were from this side of the mountain, but Jim had a large farm over the ridge beneath the Cumberland mountains where he lived with Cob’s sister Emily and their two children.
“Well, Jim Hartley, this is the second surprise visit of the day.” James greeted his son-in-law.
“Hello, Father, Mother. I’ve met up with these hooligans on my way over the mountain. Hope you don’t mind but I’ve received a letter from Cob.”
Celia smiled and got up to set a kettle boiling for coffee. “Seems Cob was busy writing.”
“Hello, Mary,” greeted Jim.
She smiled and nodded to him, as did Leroy. Jim joined them around the table.
The boys followed Celia into the kitchen, asking for bread and plum jam. “In the pantry,” she said. Mary knew that Celia bought her bread and most of her food from others. She used to buy at Shull’s store until Cob’s unpleasantness with Sarah Shull. Now Celia sent the boys farther down the valley to Jack Horton’s store. Not only was James not a farmer, neither was Celia a farmer’s wife. Yet they always had a good store of food and Celia knew how to make recipes that came from Virginia. She also kept a fine herb garden by the house.
Jim cleared his throat and looked across the table at Leroy. “Sounds as if we are to bring out cattle.”
Leroy nodded. “We can take the train west out of Johnson’s Tank and gather a herd from Bradley County. Mother has already sent word to Grandfather Alexander and he’ll see us outfitted. We’ll drive them north and meet up with the women and children at St. Joseph, Missouri. Seems we’ll be headed to Nebraska Territory and not Colorado.”
Jim accepted a cup of coffee from Celia. “Thank you. About that. I’m not sure which one of you two to believe where the better prospect is. And before I go expecting Emily and the children to travel all that way, I want to take a look at the land myself.”
“I understand,” said Leroy.
“So I’m willing to help push the cattle out and deliver your family and Cob’s to Nebraska. But we won’t settle this year.”
Celia looked ready to weep, though she smiled. “So Emily is staying?”
“Yes, Mother and that leads me to an important question. Will you and Father come over and stay with Emily until I return? It’s possible that I won’t get back until after Christmas. My youngest brother will help with the farm and we’ll hire hands for harvest. But she needs you to wait with her.”
James sighed. “We could.”
“Yes, yes, of course we can.” Celia sniffed slightly and walked into the kitchen to bring back bread and jam and sliced yellow cheese.
“Jim, I’ve been cajoling the folks all morning to do just as you’ve asked.”
“Ah, Brother Leroy, perhaps one day you’ll learn to ask rather than cajole.” They all laughed.
Leroy shook his head and let go of the dark scowl he’d held all morning. “We need to plan a date to coordinate the cattle and the women.”
Mary felt like cattle. They were soon going to learn that she would not be so easily pressed. “I’m not ready to leave.”
They all gave her sympathetic expressions. Leroy said, “Neither is Sally, but we will have time to say goodbyes to family and sort what belongings to bring and what to leave.”
Mary glanced at the two boys still in the kitchen, jabbering about what the trail would be like and which one was the better rider, hunter or dancer. Celia caught her meaning. “Billy, Jamie could you take your exuberant talk outside and split some more wood?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” Each walked faster to be first through the door. When they both reached it at the same time, they pushed through together and erupted into more laughter.
“It’s going to be mighty quiet around here,” said James.
“Not if you stay with Emily. Julia and Mary Catherine’s broods visit often and it sounds like a clucking hen-house most days.”
Mary sighed. That’s what she missed most—the press of women in the great room and cousins underfoot. “I’m not ready to leave until I have this baby.”
“Leroy! Not under this roof. Mind your words.”
Leroy stood up and turned his back to everyone. Once he was better composed, he turned back to Mary. “You do realize we have to leave before June first? The sooner the better.”
Mary folded her hands on her lap. “Since we are not going all the way out to Colorado, we can leave later.”
“No, we cannot.” Leroy clasped the back of his chair, his knuckles turning white with his grip.
“This babe won’t be arriving until the end of July at the soonest and I’m not birthing on the trail or the wild prairie among strangers.”
Jim leaned back. “Mary’s right. But we still have the cattle to round up and wagons to outfit. We can still time this out and give Mary the days she needs.”
Leroy shook his head. “Weath will be coming for Cob’s place, and mine, too on June first.”
“Why on earth would that craven Frenchman have debts with you and Cob?” James glared at his son.
“We were working on getting our stake put together. Da, we didn’t have the money to fund this trip unless we sold our properties, but Weath was holding a debt over each.”
“Son, what of these rumors I hear that Cob absconded with tax payer’s money?” The room grew silent.
Leroy pushed back from the chair. “No, Da. Cob did not steal. He delivered those collections to Jack Horton and they are accounted for. You ask Horton directly.”
“What happens on June first,” asked Mary.
“Weath thinks he’s calling in the debts on June first. If we don’t pay up, he’ll file against each property. Only, we sold our properties numerous times, so by the time Weath files and tracks down the final ownership he’ll discover that his claim is no longer valid.”
James was now the McCanles scowling. “No longer valid? You cheated the man out of debts. Debts I wasn’t even aware that you and your brother had. So tell me son, how did you come by these debts?”
“We were trying to raise a stake.” Leroy shuffled his feet, looking grim.
“How,” roared James.
“Investing in economics of the region.”
“You were investing in corn? Perhaps bootlegging? What regional investments specifically? Do recall that I once served this county as a judge and am quite familiar with what is legal as an investment and cheating the government out of the liquor tax is not what I expected of my sons.”
“Chickens? Is that where Cling has gotten this idea to raise chickens?” Mary knew that it was typical of the three boys to like anything that their father did. Something she hoped they’d outgrow or perhaps attach to their Grandfather McCanles who worked wood and used his education.
“Um, these aren’t exactly egg layers. We bought a lot of chickens from Weath, only he had dosed them with something and they didn’t live up to their potential and it impacted our investment. Weath’s the one who is crooked, but we signed papers on our properties expecting to make the money back on the chickens.”
“Not egg layers? What other kind of chickens are there,” asked Jim Hartly.
“Roosters,” mumbled Leroy.
“Roosters? What good are roosters?”
Mary wondered if Jim Hartley were really that daft or if he wanted his in-laws to believe he was innocent of betting on cock-fights.
James stood up. “Pardon me, Jim, Ladies. My son and I are going to step out for a bit of fresh air.”